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The Ultimate D.I.Y Guide to Effective eLearning Design By Karla Gutiérrez


Published on

Karla Gutiérrez is the Head of
Inbound Marketing and Online
Management at Aura
Interactiva, creators of SHIFT
eLearning. She’s focused on
blogging and social media
communications in the
eLearning industry.

Published in: Education, Technology

The Ultimate D.I.Y Guide to Effective eLearning Design By Karla Gutiérrez

  1. 1. The Ultimate D.I.Y Guide to Effective eLearning Design By: Karla Gutiérrez Karla Gutiérrez is the Head of Inbound Marketing and Online Management at Aura Interactiva, creators of SHIFT eLearning. She’s focused on blogging and social media communications in the eLearning industry. Connect with her in LinkedIn here. SHARE THIS EBOOK
  2. 2. CONTENTS: The Ultimate D.I.Y Guide to Effective eLearning Design Introduction Chapter 1: Understanding people and how to design for them. Chapter 2: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own eLearning Course Chapter 3: Design Like a Pro: Best Practices for eLearning Chapter 4: DIY Tips for Non-Designers Chapter 5: 5 of the Best Pinterest Boards to Teach You About eLearning Design
  3. 3. Not a Professional Designer? But you do treat design as a crucial aspect of eLearning and understand its importance. This eBook is for everyone that needs or wants to start creating better and more effective eLearning courses. Whether you’re a student, a one-man eLearning department, a corporate executive, or just someone getting started with eLearning design and looking to get a better understanding of industry best practices, this ebook is for you! Design is more pervasive than you think it is. The moment you fire up your eLearning tool and make a slide, you face issues of design whether you like it or not. And if you explore them a bit and find ways to improve a design, you become a designer yourself. YOU (Yes You) can effectively design eLearning screens.
  4. 4. We think it’s time you take eLearning design matters into your own hands. And even if you don’t have to design your own courses, it’s important to know the elements of successful eLearning design so you can avoid wasting time and headache with designers who want to create works of art instead of meaningful courses. You will just need a positive attitude and willingness to craft compelling courses. No fancy tools and complicated processes involved. Learn how you (a non-designer) can create amazing eLearning screens following the guidelines and tips this eBook provides. While these guidelines may seem like beginner stuff, you’d be surprised how often they’re overlooked by eLearning professionals. Great-looking screens come from learning the basics. These won't earn you a living as a graphic designer, but they will make your screens stand out so that students will be more apt to learn. You don’t need to become the world’s most effective designer, but you should learn the essentials of design and what makes a compelling course so irresistible.
  5. 5. #1 Understanding people and how to design for them
  6. 6. Understanding People is the Most Important Thing in eLearning Design Increasing awareness of why learners act in certain ways can increase the effectiveness of your eLearning courses. eLearning courses have to acknowledge the habits and tendencies of the people interacting with the course so the learning becomes relevant, lasting and useful to the learner. In this chapter, you’ll learn the eight things every eLearning designer needs to know about people. “Creating great experiences means understanding people and getting that understanding into design”
  7. 7. People especially like and respond to people they know, think they know or who looks like someone they know. Incorporating images, graphics, messages from leaders, or animation that reflects your learner profile can help make the learning more engaging and effective. You can supply data in droves, but effective eLearning design should also draw upon stories to illustrate the data to drive the point home. Learners can misinterpret data, whereas stories present information more clearly, create an emotional response, and trigger the brain's memory center to make the learning more effective.
  8. 8. Our entire lives, our brains prune out information it doesn't need or use to make room for other, more relevant information. Effective eLearning design takes this into account and provides learners the opportunity to use new information so that it sticks. This means repeating the information, applying it immediately, or connecting the new information to existing knowledge. Despite our best intentions, we make split second judgments and decisions based on how something looks and feels. Your eLearning courses have one chance to make a solid first impression with learners to gain their trust. This means the look and feel of your courses must present it's best foot forward. Font, images, colors, layout and navigation have to draw learners in, not turn them off.
  9. 9. You have designed a pretty great eLearning course, but the results show the course isn't effective. Why? Likely because what you see on the screen isn't what makes it into the learner's brain. You can help learners take away the right information by organizing and managing the information more effectively, which in turn, reduces the likelihood the learner will get lost in her own perceptions of the information. Surprises are fun, different and exciting. They offer us a new way to interact with the world and view a situation. Effective eLearning design should incorporate new and novel ways of looking at information the learner may have encountered repeatedly. The element of surprise will help the information stick. As a caution, people also like consistency so balance out the new with the expected for the most effective design.
  10. 10. We can't retain all the information we take in each day, and the brain's ability to filter works to protect us from information overload. To prevent learners from filtering out the important information in eLearning, make the key learning targets impossible to ignore. Increasing the size, changing the color or adding animation can draw the learner's attention to the learning targets. It feels good to achieve something. Effective eLearning design should provide feedback to learners regularly about their progress, what they have mastered, and if they have met certain goals. Providing this information will motivate learners as they progress through the course.
  11. 11. #2 The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own eLearning Course
  12. 12. How to Create an eLearning Course in 7 Simple Steps Does the thought of designing an eLearning course fill you with dread? Do you feel like you don’t have a creative bone in your body nor the necessary skills to do it? And on top of that you want a more professional-looking course without having to hire a pro? Making something useful and effective can be a little bit daunting especially for first-timers. The good news is you don’t have to be an expert to design effective eLearning screen. You only have to understand the basics well and execute it. Here’s an indispensable guide to the basics of creating DIY topnotch courses:
  13. 13. Before you start, be sure to get a clear idea of who your learner is. What are their learning goals? How will you design your module to help them attain their needs? Always consider your learner in every step of the process. Don’t be content with vague ideas of who your learners might be. Will you teach the course to people interested in the psychology of colors? That’s a good start but you can do better. How about knowing more about your learners? You can, for instance, identify their age, occupation, lifestyle, reading habits and personal goals. Once you get to know who your learners are, it’s easier to tailor your content to your audience. Your learners can also freely connect with your lessons even if your knowledge on the topic is limited.
  14. 14. What makes a material effective is the way in which it is structures—how its parts are organized. There should be an introduction where students can learn what the course is all about and what is expected of them. Then aim for four to five sections per module, each with a summary section. Be sure to limit your modules to maximum 10 screens so that learners feel a sense of progress or accomplishment. It doesn’t makes sense to jump right in and start building the course slide by slide. Storyboarding is a great way to outline your course structure. Using simple boxes and arrows, determine the flow of your information as if you are telling a story or devising a plot. Decide on the type and amount of interactions, videos, images, assessments, etc. that you will need to make the content understandable and engaging.
  15. 15. So how will your course look like? Designers who work on print and web all agree that designing is really about users—how they interact with interfaces and achieve their goals in the process. After you've established the course’s structure, figure out which fonts and color scheme to use. The design elements should make your course look pretty and functional. You have to blend both style and strategy by making sure that some colors stand out from the rest. More importantly, keep the design simple and professional. Design or package your content in a way that pleases the eyes. You have to help learners scan the page (because they are going to anyway). Break long paragraphs through numbered lists, bullets and section headers so that learners can quickly glance at the main points of your article. Use readable fonts and white spaces for an optimal learning experience.
  16. 16. Section screens: this is the area that holds course’s main content. Each section can have its own instructions, content, assessment, and summary. Weave the parts of your material into a cohesive whole. Work on each section—including its own instructions, core content, evaluation and summary— and make sure it moves your audience closer to their learning goals. Learners should be able to feel confident before they can move on to the next section. Start by making each section alive using appropriate strategies (games, simulations, scenarios, exercises etc.) so that learners stay actively engaged during the course. The main thing to remember when creating each section is to keep varying your format from one screen to another. Try doing a procedure slide followed by, say, a visually oriented information slide.
  17. 17. Above all: Keep screens clean!  Avoid long paragraphs when possible;  Limit text to 3-5 bullets or sentences;  When possible, use graphics or photos to emphasize a concept;  Organize your content around digestible, bite-sized piece of information;  Prioritize need-to-know and place nice-to-know information in your resources section, if needed.
  18. 18. After you've created the majority of your course, head back to the start. It'll be much easier to introduce your course content if you already know what that content is. From looking back at the content, you should be able to identify the most interesting parts of the course and the most relevant outcomes of each module. Effective eLearning materials always start with a bang. The title screen, for instance, lures learners into the course. Make your own title screen attractive and compelling by creating an informative yet catchy title and using the right images. Relevant and eye-catching graphics helps arouse curiosity and reflects the essence of the course. Read your course’s introductory material again and again. If it sounds like the starting signal for an Olympic mouse clicking event, then you’re probably doing the right thing. Most importantly, make your introduction clear and informative by: Explaining the course objectives clearly Establish relevance by setting significant goals Explaining how the material is appropriate to the learner’s learning situation or context Showing the learner how your material can help them
  19. 19. If there’s one thing you should get right when designing an eLearning material, it’s this: Giving appropriate incentives and opportunities for self-responses. Rewarding students when they do well increases their motivate to learn. Allowing students to assess their own learning boosts their learning independence and satisfaction. Are students actually able to apply what they have learned? How’s their progress? Let them know for themselves by creating interactive activities and multiple-choice and formative tests after the end of each section. Reminder: Make sure your activities and tests directly relate to the section content.
  20. 20. Section summaries are a great tool for helping students recall the main points you covered. Remind them about the objectives mentioned in the introduction and tell them how close they are to their goals by completing each section. Students will usually feel a sense of accomplishment as they finish each unit. You may also include a link to a survey or invite students for feedback after every section. Doing so will show learners that you are ready to give them a hand anytime. As you can see, you don’t have to be an experienced professional instructor to create an effective and memorable eLearning course. You only have to learn the fundamentals of learning, apply it in practice, and be brilliant at the basics.
  21. 21. #3 Design Like a Pro: Best Practices for eLearning
  22. 22. What the Best eLearning Designers Do (And You Should Too) eLearning, like any other piece of work, should be driven by strong design principles. It is through the application of these certain principles that we can be sure to create content that is accessible and attractive to the learner. Besides, good eLearning design is what brings a course to life. It’s what makes learners want to continue reading. As the eLearning experts say, there is a lot to consider when creating eLearning designs. But it is these six eLearning design best practices that are essential for creating a great course design. In this chapter, we’ve compiled what we've found the best eLearning designers do. It will help your learn the basic principles and techniques to start designing like a pro instantly.
  23. 23. Your first screens should appeal strongly to learners. It should pique their interest and stimulate their imagination. Pay attention to your texts, images and other visual elements. Are they clear, catchy and relevant? They should be. People tend to ignore cluttered and boring design. They gravitate, instead, to one that’s aesthetically pleasing Begin with a catchy course name. Then make your design appealing, consistent and user-friendly. Go for simple and familiar if you want to appeal to your learner’s interests and expectations. Make sure your first screens are clean, clear and well-designed. Focus on what you can give people throughout the course. Will the content help them become better at work or improve their mastery in something they love? Tell them from the very beginning.
  24. 24. An effective visual design leads learners to the most important information. This is usually done with the help of typography, size, color and text placement. Thus, elements of the highest rank are most noticeable. They occupy headings and sub-headings and are usually typewritten in bold. They are arranged in such a way so that viewers can quickly skim through the slides and easily grasp your main points. More importantly, give learners a too obvious to be missed visual hierarchy. Structure or outline your content with bullet points, number lists, some brief quotes. If you’re spending a lot of time putting together an attractive visual design, also spend time making sure your content is easy to read and consume. If it isn't read easily, no amount of visuals and media will grab your learner's attention
  25. 25. “Perfection,” says the French writer Antoine de SaintExupery, “is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Like any other master artist, Saint-Exupery advocates subtraction—not addition. So in perfecting your screen, focus on removing unnecessary elements. Always resist the urge to fill every part of the screen. That’s the mark of a good designing in the making. The point is to make your screen clutter-free. Clutter is the failure of design. The more element you add, the less effective the overall design becomes. Every occupied inch of space—no matter how pretty your images or eloquent your phrases are—decreases clarity and impact. Your slide turns into a slideument, not a real effective slide
  26. 26. There’s another way to put it: respect the learner’s limitations. Since the brain can process only a limited amount of information at a time, giving learners too much of it is futile. To ensure success, content needs to be chunked, rather than simply dump never-ending chains of text. Write concise sentences and use simple words to facilitate information processing. These techniques will make learning more manageable and easier to integrate into long-term memory. . Storing new information, can be very difficult if there is no relevant information to store it with. Ensure your learners can relate to the contents of your courses. Make it easy for them to absorb and incorporate new information by placing content in context.
  27. 27. Intentional design is real design. This is far different from mere decoration, or from placing a visual element on screen just because it looks good. When you approach your projects this way, your eLearning designs become functional instead. The screen, in its entirety, serves your viewers’ learning goals. Effective eLearning design is all about taking care of the small parts to produce a coherent whole. When designing your screens: carefully decide what elements you use and where they’re positioned on the screen. Every element must be there for a reason.
  28. 28. An image, indeed, tells a thousand words. But are you sure that an image represents the ideas you want to share? Be careful here. Too many eLearning materials out there are ruined by their bad selection of images. The image you choose can either make or break your presentation. Be sure to follow some of these rules: 1. Use images that are directly relevant to the content. 2. Limit the amount of images used to keep your slide clutter-free. 3. Avoid lame clip art, watermarked images and cheesy stock photos. 4. The ultimate rule is this: Always choose an image that will help reinforce your message.
  29. 29. Together; Different, Apart This rule is primarily about organization. It answers the question: how should you arrange the elements of a slide? Where should you place a title, text, image or whatever? The golden rule implies proximity, which is one of the easiest ways to group things together. Proximity guides and helps learners in subconsciously understanding the content. By putting like elements together and different ones apart, you are at the same time creating a sense of organization. Remember, it’s part of your job to show learners what to think.
  30. 30. #4 4 Things Experts Can Teach You About eLearning Design
  31. 31. So you want to learn how to design more effectively? Some advice from the experts Design is too often overlooked by course developers, or otherwise misunderstood – some eLearning designers think that as long as their course "looks good," the visuals are sufficient. But graphical composition and design affect the way a learner takes in information, so giving a bit more thought to the visual layout of the screens of your course is an important part of eLearning best practices. There are a lot of opinions and thoughts for how to design effectively. That's why we have decided to collect some expert advice. In this chapter, you’ll learn four design lessons from recognized figures like Steve Jobs and Seth Godin. We suggest you understand these concepts perfectly before designing your next course!
  32. 32. In the words of the world’s best marketer, Seth Godin, the goal is“ to create design that takes the user’s long-term needs and desires into account, and helps him focus his attention and goals on accomplishing something worthwhile.” Take a look at your design. Does it make it easier for learners to do what you want them to? Get the right buttons in place so that learners can smoothly move on to the next page or slide. Organize your content in a readable format and be consistent all throughout. Remember, your goal as an eLearning designer is to make them come back and finish the course. Every design element, from font sizes to images, should reflect such goal.
  33. 33. Steve Jobs, one of the few revolutionary icons, changed the way we think about how computers should look like—inside and out. He cared about how the innards of a computer should look. And he definitely paid meticulous attention to the outside appearance of every Apple device. The lesson for any eLearning designer is remarkably straightforward. You have to care of both form and function— of how the design looks like and what the design attempts to achieve. Think of a car’s interior, which, by the way, serves as your interface. Everything is in its right place so that you can keep your eyes on the road and drive. The interface itself is designed to get you to your destination. Every learning interface you design should help learners reach their destination too.
  34. 34. Here’s how Sahil Lavingia, Pinterest’s founding designer, put it: Design isn’t just a visual style; it’s about the product as a whole. Amateur designers may talk at length about readable fonts and types. Professional designers, however, move beyond that and a lot of other visual elements. Colors, sizes, frames are all important parts. Your job is to take care of these parts while always keeping in mind the totality, or integrity, of your material.
  35. 35. Designing for emotions has always been part of the design tradition. Designers know that people’s emotions play a role in how they perceive and make use of a design. They also know that a particular design has the power to influence an individual’s emotions—that it can make people feel something strongly and then act. So in designing your material, ask first what you want learners to feel while they’re taking the course. Do you want them to feel accomplished after finishing every section? Or perhaps confident that they can complete the whole course? Make sure your design generate these emotions. You can use emotionally-charged images but be careful not to overdo them. Or you can tell stories that evoke relevant memories. “Emotionally charged events persist much longer in our memories and are recalled with greater accuracy than neutral memories.” John Medina– Brain Rules
  36. 36. #5 DIY Tips for Non-Designers
  37. 37. Take Design Into Your Own Hands! DIY Tips to Make Your eLearning Courses Sizzle In eLearning, one of the main challenges is how to get great looking and professional courses with limited experience and no resources. Truth is not everyone is lucky enough to have a designer on tap for every eLearning project. And most of us aren’t graphic designers nor have extensive formal training in visual design. Good news is that even without technical training, your eLearning screens can look great and impress learners immediately. So, don’t worry! It’s ok if you are not a professional designer! In this chapter you’ll learn some of the easiest ways to make up for lack of graphic design skills. We’ll will help you discover some simple tips that will fool anyone into thinking you’re a pro.
  38. 38. Text and images work better together—if you know how to use them. With text as the “data”, your images can serve as a complementary element that delivers the emotional impact. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to achieve this. Let the right picture support your message. It can even increase retention six times more, as research has shown. As a start, you can: Relevant. Use a series of relevant images instead of rows of bullet points. Bullet points and lists can be boring, great images are not. Impactful. Use images that evoke surprise, compassion, laughter, or other positive emotional response. Use photographs instead of clip art for a more professional feel. **In case you decide to use clip art, be sure to choose high-quality images and avoid generic ones.
  39. 39. Decide on a slide layout and stick to it. Changing the layout makes it harder for learners to adjust to and understand your material. Consistency with other design elements such as background, font and colors is important as well. Are your headings and titles descriptive and informative? Can learners easily grasp their meaning? Make sure your audience knows what you will be covering. Use simple and precise words. You may even have to rewrite most of your titles, as effective copywriters do, and choose the best among your options.
  40. 40. Design is not decoration. Always bear this in mind. Effective design, after all, enables users to focus on the essentials; mere decoration distracts them. Nancy Duarte, writer and graphic designer who is known for her bestselling books on great presentations, notes that 90 percent of the creative process should be destructive. You have to slowly and thoughtfully peel away the unnecessary elements, Duarte explains Designing your material, then, has a lot to do with sticking to the essentials and arranging them properly.
  41. 41. Colors are powerful in that they elicit emotions, latent ones included. So using the right colors can effectively deliver the emotional reaction you expect from your audience. Choose black or any dark colors for text, and white or soft tones for background. Be careful not to use more than three colors as they would only make your presentations look cluttered. Start with an empty space. Great designers do. They see empty space as important as content. They see it as a powerful space, complete on its own. Thus, you don’t have to fill in an empty space. White spaces are effective in helping users see what’s important and what to focus on. They pave the way to a better understanding, clearer presentation of ideas and effective eLearning designs.
  42. 42. Don’t try to fit a whole novel on each screen. If you really need to present a lot of text, break up content. Break text up into lists, tables, and paragraphs. Do this if you want to make your paragraphs readable on the screen. Break ideas into short blocks of text and spaces in between. Don’t try to fit a whole novel on each screen. If you really need to present a lot of text, break up content. Break text up into lists, tables, and paragraphs. Do this if you want to make your paragraphs readable on the screen. Break ideas into short blocks of text and spaces in between.
  43. 43. Don’t try to outsmart your audience with complicated graphics. Keep your charts, graphs and diagrams straightforward and to the point. Your visual data should make it easy for your audience to grasp complicated information. Make sure that every element plays a role in moving the learner towards his or her goal. Don’t get caught up with colors and fonts. Focus, instead, on your main objectives.
  44. 44. #6 5 of the Best Pinterest Boards to Teach You About eLearning Design
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  50. 50. #6 GET A 15-DAY FREE TRIAL 6 of the Best Pinterest Boards to Teach You About eLearning Design